As a U.S. Army veterinary officer in San Antonio, Texas, Andrew Chambers, DVM, M.P.H. ’21, is currently working at the intersection of public health and veterinary medicine. But just a few months ago, he was in New Haven, Connecticut finishing his master’s degree in the Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at the Yale School of Public Health.
Chambers admits his path to the Yale School of Public Health was “a little different” from most. After graduating from Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2010, he worked in private practice for four years before joining the Army. In 2019, the Army allowed him the opportunity to pursue a specialty of his choosing, and he enrolled at YSPH to broaden his horizons.
“I wanted to go to a school that was not specifically a school of veterinary medicine, to get more of the human side of public health,” Chambers said. “Yale absolutely gave me that and so much more.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Chambers was searching for a summer internship. While his initial plans ended up being scrapped, he was able to secure an internship with Nathaniel Raymond, a lecturer with YSPH’s Department of the Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases and at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. The move proved fortuitous. Raymond’s team was researching “pandemic-specific ways to identify vulnerable populations.” The project resulted in a paper being published in EClinicalMedicine, a new open-access clinical journal published by The Lancet. Chambers was the study’s corresponding author.
“It morphed into this idea of the ‘nexus theory’ – finding locations or times when people are at increased susceptibility and then matching those with the vulnerable groups,” Chambers said, explaining the study’s focus.
According to Chambers, the nexus theory looks at two separate measures: vulnerability, meaning identifying populations that could be hit harder by pathogens, and susceptibility, meaning how human behaviors in specific locations contribute to exposure to a pathogen. Public health officials, the study said, should focus on these nexuses – situations in which there is overlap between a susceptible area and a vulnerable population.
“We can’t just define a vulnerable population for emergency response,” Chambers said. “We need to also define the locations of these populations so we can prioritize resources.”
The paper looks at Dallas, Texas, as an example. At one point, it notes, Dallas was locating many COVID-19 testing centers in white and affluent neighborhoods. When the city attempted to correct itself by providing a vaccination program that prioritized Black and Latinx areas, it didn’t completely work, the paper said, because “Texas state health officials threatened to reduce weekly supplies of the vaccine if county officials did not offer the vaccine to all residents regardless of where they live.”
The team is currently in the final stages of a related paper that they intend to submit to the Journal of Emergency Management. This new paper will provide more background and data from the study. It will also include a checklist for the emergency management community that focuses on an equitable response, Chambers said.
Overall, Chambers said he is grateful for his time at YSPH, and especially for the fact that it allowed him to explore new fields through course electives. Environmental health, for example, was something he hadn’t had much exposure to before enrolling at YSPH.
“The pandemic certainly altered things, but Yale was extremely flexible, extremely easy to work with in terms of thesis projects, timelines, things like that,” Chambers added. “The faculty and staff are second to none, in my opinion.”